The Experience of Addiction~Broken for Others (Graffiti Summer)

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but God allowed me to be broken for others…for seven years. At least it wasn’t forty years like Moses!

For fourteen years I filled prescriptions for people and while I could tell them side effects, interactions, instructions, etc., I could not understand the desperation they felt for these medications. Prescriptions for insomnia, pain, depression, and anxiety. And then of course the prescriptions to get OFF of those meds. Addiction. Desperation. I really didn’t think it could happen to me. But God allowed me to see things from a different perspective. From their shoes.

As I’ve said before, we stay so busy in our own shoes, we don’t think about what it might look like in somebody else’s.

As I’m joining in with Alene Snodgrass for Graffiti Summer, we are talking about being broken for others through the story of Moses. Just click on the link for a free download of the study, and be sure to check out amazon for her book she cowrote with a homeless man.

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(I’ll have an interesting post coming up soon about homelessness that my daughter will have input in…be sure to watch for it!)

So this week for my post I’m cheating a little because I’m posting something I’ve already written, but I’m taking a little risk in that it’s an excerpt from my book that I haven’t really let anyone see yet or even talked about much. But just like Moses, it’s God’s story, not mine. So here ya go…part of my own story of being broken for others…

There are plenty of movies depicting addicts in withdrawal, but I’ve never seen what happened to me. Besides the sweating, shaking, headache, and ears ringing, I started throwing up constantly. Literally. When there was nothing in my stomach to come up, up came green bile. Between bringing me warm washcloths for my mouth and cold washcloths for my head, my mom and David were persistently trying to find the best way to get help.

It was not easy.

Research into medical intervention revealed rehab “resorts” hundreds of miles and tens-of-thousands of dollars away, but the local, affordable options were few. Even if I had $30,000 to spend, there was no way I could physically make the trip. After about three days, I could barely hold my head up to vomit, much less pack and get on an airplane. As I camped out on the bathroom floor with my pillow, blanket, and pile of washcloths, I could hear the hush-hush talk about what to do with me. The shame and utter despair I felt for putting my family through this was as unbearable as my state of health.

We finally found a local physician with an outpatient clinic for drug addiction that was not a methadone clinic. Methadone clinics sprung up in the ‘90s when heroin addiction was at its highest. Methadone is a cheap drug that helps with addiction to certain drugs, but the problem is, it’s just as addictive as anything else. The clinic we found dispensed Suboxone, a fairly new drug on the market I’d only dispensed a few times which is used solely for narcotic addiction. It is a short-term substitute for the narcotic—the Lortab in my case—and greatly reduces the effects of withdrawal, and allows the receptors in the brain to dwindle back down to normal.

We immediately called his office. Of course, it just happened to be Friday morning; they said I could not be seen until after the weekend. I honestly didn’t think I would live that long (although now I know just how much a body can endure). They could admit me to Carolina Behavioral Hospital where they’d give me fluids and medicine for nausea, and begin Suboxone treatment there. That news was music to my ringing ears.

Now you have to remember how I grew up—only child, Christian School, very sheltered. You know…in my ivory tower. I heard “hospital” and “fluids” and I imagined a nice sterile, private hospital room with a television and nurses coming to check on me every few hours and give me medicine. I think Mom and David expected the same.

As David pulled us up to the front door, I lay across the back seat of our suburban with my puke bucket in the floor, continually filling it. The nausea and vomiting was relentless, and there must have been a hammer constantly pounding my head. David went inside to see how to get checked in, and what seemed like days later, he returned with a nurse and a wheelchair.  As they took me down hall after hall and through password required doors to the detox ward, I wanted to disappear. The pain and nausea combined with my shame and desperation took me to a place so low I could have just melted and become one with the floor. Though I wouldn’t have wanted that floor to be my final resting place.

My “hospital” expectations were not even close. As I sat in a wheelchair with my trusty bucket in my lap, David and Mom checked me in, and we proceeded to follow a nurse back to that area. My worst nightmare began to come true as I scanned my new environment. There was a common area with a small television and a few old sofas that looked like they’d been rescued off the street. The “hospital” room reminded me of the worst dorm room on a college campus. The other patients—men and women—were dressed like homeless people coming to a shelter for a warm meal.

As the nurse explained procedure, I could see my mom and David looking around the room in shock and fear at the thought of leaving me. After hearing a bit of conversation from a few of the male residents, they made the decision to take me home.

I was so desperate; I told them to leave me. I had to have some help and there was no other option.

Never had I seen my mom look so helpless. The thought of leaving her baby girl in such a place was more than she could bear. I’ve never asked because my heart couldn’t take it, but I’m sure her eyes were pouring tears as she drove home.

David has since shared with me that leaving me at there was one of only three times in his life he has sobbed from being heartbroken. No one expects or prepares for this type of heartbreak. When he left, he picked up the kids from his mom and took them to the beach. He needed some distance from the situation and the kids needed something to keep their minds occupied. They didn’t know the whole situation at the time, but they knew enough to know something was wrong, that I was very sick.

As a wife and mom, the words “burden” and “failure” don’t begin to describe how I felt. I had done damage to myself physically, but I had hurt my family emotionally and created injuries that would be much more difficult to heal. Scars that would last a lifetime.

Once I was left in the hands of the nurses, the process started. They went through every single pocket, page, bottle and seam of every item that came with me and left me with the bare minimum. No cosmetics, no liquids, no hairbrush, no razor, no earrings … the bare minimum. My environment was surreal. As I lay on the cardboard bed with the questionable blanket, throwing up in my puke bucket, which sat on the nasty blue carpet, I could not believe I actually told David to leave me. The promise of fluids and nursing care was empty. For twenty-four hours, I was left to throw up, unattended.

Other patients left and returned at the sound of the school bell for meals, group therapy, and smoking breaks. I ate nothing. Finally, a nurse came to get me for my appointment with the psychiatrist to begin my Suboxone treatment. He laid out a three-day plan to fix me.

Three days. Now that would be something.

Dr. Psychiatrist wrote orders to start me on the Suboxone and an injection of Phenergan for the nausea. The male nurse on duty proceeded to lead me to the lovely—and oh-so-sterile—plaid sofa to give me my injection. As he was preparing it, the school bell rang and he just sat back and looked at me.

“Is everything okay?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “Aren’t you going to go out and smoke? Isn’t that what you people do?”

You people. Are you kidding me? “I’ve never once put a cigarette to my mouth and I have no intention of starting now.”

I was the only patient who did not go outside to smoke. As a matter of fact, most of the staff went with them. Mr. Nurse proceeded to give me the injection and go on his merry way. I remained in disbelief at the stereotypic category in which I was just dumped. I began to see a pattern, though, with most everyone there. When everyone walked back inside, one of the male patients plopped down on the sofa next to me and said, “So, what’s your drug of choice?”

Drug of choice?

I might as well have been staring at an alien. I was definitely in another world.

 

I definitely walked in some scary shoes. Shoes that gave me an entirely new perspective, which is what Graffiti summer is all about. We don’t realize how quickly our own situation can change, and we find ourselves where we never thought we’d be. Feel free to tweet that 🙂

Have you walked in any unexpected shoes that shifted your paradigm?

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Comments

  1. Wow, Celeste — “you people?” That makes my heart hurt. And it convicts me too because of the times I’ve wrongly judged/categorized people. I’ve been teaching something recently, and every single week the Lord impresses the same phrase on me:
    There’s always more to the story.

    And yes, I’ve made some grievous mistakes that have seriously humbled me. To whom much is given, much is expected. And that includes GRACE.

    Excellent post, my friend.

    • CelesteVaughan says:

      I know Susan. Hurt doesn’t even begin to describe it. You are so right. There is always more to the story and I always say too that we never know what goes on behind closed doors. Thanks Susan!

  2. Cathy Baker says:

    I’m enjoying Susan’s vlog on Wednesdays with this study. It’s a life changer. Thank you for sharing your story. I agree with Susan — “you people” — wow. For me, having gone through multiple divorces certainly helped me to understand the stigma of those who have experienced that particular difficulty. But having walked in those shoes has helped me to minister to many as a result. We comfort those with the comfort we have received from God.

    Great post, my fellow “only.” 🙂

    • CelesteVaughan says:

      Thanks Cathy 🙂 It’s a shame we have to go through all these hard things to finally “get it” and realize that it’s okay to not be perfect. But the struggles we go through make us more perfect in God’s eyes and that’s what we should be striving for.

  3. Crickett Keeth says:

    Celeste, your story fascinates and inspires me. I can’t wait till you write this book and it comes out. I love the way you write. Thanks for being willing to share your story with us. I wanted to keep reading…

  4. Love your raw authenticity here friend! Thanks for sharing – so many of your words make my heart pound as if I’m there with you. You certainly do have the gift of perspective to help those who have been in those shoes. You inspire me — thanks for encouraging us all!

    • CelesteVaughan says:

      Thanks so much Alene for your encouragement and your Graffiti challenge. I know my life is so busy right now, much of my writing for the Graffiti study is from my past, but I pray that every word will make a difference in changing stereotypes that are so hurtful to people already in pain.

  5. Elizabeth B. Meaders says:

    Some of this I remember; some I never knew. I know that the vomiting and no food meant your medication to prevent seizures did not stay in your body, and you had a bad grand mall seizure. You hit your head and hurt your back when you hit that dirty hall floor. Yes, I was horrified! It was another time I was afraid you would die, that I would lose you forever and your children would not have their mother. God also used those around you during those years; we learned so much and had our faith strengthened as we passed each “test” of that faith. God Bless You! I cannot wait to read your book!

    • CelesteVaughan says:

      Thanks mom. I’m so glad I didn’t put you through any more than I did…especially losing a child. You’re definitely stuck with me now! 🙂

  6. Celeste, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing a piece of your story. You’ve left me wanting to read more. Your heart is beautiful here and maybe has left me a bit speechless. I watched my husband battle alcoholism many, many years ago and remember too clearly the day I left him at rehab. And I have my own memories of admitting myself for rehab when I was at my worst with my eating disorder. But these stories…they need to be shared as they will encourage others. So again, thank you! Bless you for your heart.

    • CelesteVaughan says:

      Thanks so much Beth for your sweet comment! It is definitely a difficult part of my story, but so many people have these same secrets to hide. If we would be more forthcoming and help each other more, maybe so many wouldn’t feel the need to wear masks and keep such deep and painful secrets. The Bible tells us to share our burdens with one another, yet we only worry what others will think. In reality, the ones who love you and are your true friends only want to help and want the best. And what the others…those who don’t care…well, it doesn’t really matter what they think!

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment! You have no idea how encouraging it is.

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